A study found that lies which get out of control primarily benefit the self. Meaning, when lying about something is going to help you benefit in some personal way, even at the expense of other people, you are going to run with it. If a lie is only beneficial to someone else, it is unlikely that the lie will be told enough time to get out of control. Lastly, if telling a lie meant both you and someone else would benefit, you are the most likely to tell that lie over and over again watching it get bigger and bigger. In conclusion, the study found, “dishonesty escalated over time when it was self-serving, showing that the simple act of repeated dishonesty by itself is not enough for escalation to take place…” Essentially, if we are going to tell a lie and stick to it even when it starts spiraling out of control, “—a self-benefiting motivation must also be present.”
Addiction as a Motivator
Addiction is often that kind of a motivator for those who have become chemically dependent on a harmful substance such as drugs or alcohol. Lying is one of the stereotyped, stigmatized parts of addiction contributing to the characterization that addiction is an issue of immorality. Unfortunately, it is true that over time chemically dependent individuals tend to tell more lies which can get astonishingly intricate, all to serve the selfish need to continue using substances. However, the lying associated with addiction fits the bill. When drugs and alcohol take over the brain, the neurotransmitter dopamine has rewired everyday processes. Dopamine, a brain chemical communicating pleasure, changes the brain to need to feel the pleasure derived from using drugs and alcohol- not want; need. The reason this happens is because a part of the brain called the Midbrain is heavily affected by substance abuse. Survival operations like eating and sleeping live in the midbrain. Too much dopamine, however, encourages the midbrain to believe that using drugs and alcohol is its most important operation of survival. Few things could be more powerful of a self-benefitting motivation than that. Addicts and alcoholics lie to protect their ability to get high or drunk. They have to protect their ability to get high or drunk because they have become completely dependent on it. For their brain, it feels like a matter of life or death.
For the family members, loved ones, co-workers, and friends who know the individual who is suffering, it is heartbreaking and disappointing to watch them go through this cycle over and over again. Interestingly, the lying might have something more to do with them than they realize. As the study pointed out, the highest occurrence of lying was when a lie would benefit the self and another. Though it may not seem that way on the outside, people who are suffering truly don’t want other people to suffer. Addicts and alcoholics know they are letting everyone down when they lie and try to hide their using. Guilt and shame which prevail from this cycle can be debilitating. Many recovering addicts and alcoholics will attest that they did their best to hide their drinking and using to save their family from getting hurt, upset, and disappointed. Though the action is still self-serving, there is a certain level of consideration involved as well. Despite feeling completely out of control of their drinking and using, an addict or an alcoholic truly doesn’t want to keep hurting other people. Like a lie that escalates out of control, they simple can’t help it.
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